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No.390 September 29 to October 12, 2016

Other factors within Cuba?

From #388 (FDA Regulations)
Cuban cigars: A reprieve for South Africa?
Every Cuban cigar destined for the USA will have to be regulated by the FDA. This could take a while.
When the brand registration problems are added into the equation, plus the fact that the trade embargo between US and Cuba requires an act of Congress to be repealed, I don’t think that the new links between Cuba and the US will cause any immediate supply problems for South Africa.
But don’t discount other factors within Cuba!

Is Cuba likely to be able to produce enough cigars to meet the hoped-for increased demand?
An article in the Wall Street Journal provides much food for thought on this subject.
“The amount of tobacco under cultivation in Cuba declined 65% between 2009 and 2014, and annual production declined 21%......Cuba exported 91million cigars in 2014, down 58% from 2006.”

Why is this?
Mr Robaina (of Vega Robaina) is quoted as saying there are 2 major problems:
Prices paid for tobacco are low when compared with other crops, such as cucumbers which grow faster and get higher prices. Farmers can also increase their income by growing more than their quota – this doesn’t apply to tobacco production. Some tobacco fields are lying fallow, covered in weeds.
Resources – Fertilizer, fuel and other necessities. Mr Robaina said that for example his co-op, consisting of more than 100 farmers is often not able to supply his needs at the right time. At one time, his seedlings were ready for transplanting, but the co-op couldn’t supply the fuel he needed for his tractor. He had to buy at a higher price from another source. Much-needed fertilizer is subject to quotas.

The Cuban government has a hand in every aspect of production. It funnels the supplies needed by tobacco growers through the farming cooperatives, which farmers say set tobacco quotas for members and retain 2% of farm revenue. Farmers say they must apply to the government to buy tractors, irrigation systems or other expensive equipment, and Tabacuba, the government cigar-production company, decides who gets what.”

So what is the Cuban government doing to increase production:

  • They have started paying more for cured tobacco leaves;
  • Introducing intensive training for rollers – a 9 month training programmes is so strict that only 35% complete the course;
  • Improving pay for qualified rollers – “Mercedes Lores, a 51-year-old roller at La Corona, earns $75 to $100 a month, which, she and other workers say, is about twice as much as a Cuban medical professional or professor. In fact, many nurses and professors, she says, become rollers because of the pay.”

They hope to increase production by 20% pa over the next 5 years.

Did you know:
The previous Cuban embargo law was:
No person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States may purchase, transport, import, or otherwise deal in or engage in any transaction with respect to any merchandise outside the United States if such merchandise:
(1) Is of Cuban origin; or
(2) Is or has been located in or transported from or through Cuba; or
(3) Is made or derived in whole or in part of any article which is the growth, produce or manufacture of Cuba.
So all the US tourists buying Cuban cigars from us were not observing the law!

However, from March 16, 2016, US citizens may legally buy Cuban cigars for personal consumption while outside the USA.
“Americans are still prohibited from bringing Cuban cigars into the country (save for a mere $100 worth on authorized visits to Cuba from the United States) and the shipping of Cuban goods to the United States from anywhere remains off limits.”

Back home:
We’ve just returned from the InterTabak Trade Fair in Dortmund, Germany – we found some nice new humidors.
We’ve decided to clear out the last few of some of our existing stock.
At this discount these humidors are less expensive than the new stock due to arrive soon.

From 6 to 19 October, 2016, we offer 25% off
Humidor 73-J1012 Normal Price R1150.00
Humidor Set 73-J9152 Normal Price R2495.00
Last few!!

If this brief blog interests you, read the full article on the Wall Street Journal.

Colin Wesley

No.390 September 29 to October 12, 2016

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No.391 October 13 – 26, 2016

Dry Smoking

Filter Pipes.
Most modern pipes are labelled “filter” pipes, and so they should be.
Pipes have always been a natural filter, causing tars and juice to condense in the bowl and shank as the tobacco is smoked.

In modern terms, what is really meant by a Filter Pipe is that the pipe is made to hold a 6mm or 9mm “filter” (absorber) in the shank that will mop up excess moisture; or a pipe that is fitted with a trap in the shank to collect the moisture.

Let’s look at these options as they affect the actual pipes.

Filters (absorbers)
The 9mm option places a restraint on the shape and diameter of the shank.
This option in any “slimline” shank, for example for a Billiard, Liverpool, Lovat, or Canadian, will result in the wall around the filter area being rather thin and delicate – a crack or a snap in the waiting room.
The shapes all tend to be robust or extra solid pipes see the Stanwell range, and the Lorenzo Value pipes,

The 6mm option allows thicker wood around the filter area in the shank, but may have less crystals or granules in the cylindrical “filter”, and may collect less moisture than pipes with the 9mm option.
See Savinelli Dry System, Savinelli Classics, Savinelli Prestige pipes, and Marca pipes.

Our Marca “SNUG” has been designed to get the maximum benefits from a 6mm filter.
Good thick wood in the shank and a bowl just big enough for a pleasant smoke without straining the capacity of the “filter”. The only small-bowled pipe with a filter option.

Watchpoint: Filter pipes must be smoked with either the filter or an adapter (usually supplied with the pipe).
Smoking without the filter (or adapter), even once, will allow moisture to condense in the empty space and seep into the wood of the shank, which may cause it to swell. The result could be a cracked shank, or a loose mouthpiece which is very difficult to remedy.

No “Filters” (absorbers)
For older pipes, or pipes deliberately made as “non-filter” pipes (most Churchwardens or 10 minute pipes) the moisture problem can be tackled at source, in the bottom of the bowl, by means of “bowl filters”.
There are crystal granules, clay plugs, or the latest Lava pellets, which are placed in the bottom of the bowl to absorb the moisture.
There is no real downside to these bowl filters; they are mostly discarded after every smoke.
Note: The little metal arrestor fitted into many of these pipes will not absorb any moisture. But it does stop bits of tobacco being drawn into the mouthpiece.

Built-in traps:
The most well-known of these pipes in South Africa is the Keyser, dating back to the 1950s.
The principle of this trap is the gap between the spout in the trap and the tube in the mouthpiece. The gap gathers all the moisture that drips in from either end.
It is very effective, but there is nothing to mop up the collected moisture.
Care needs to be taken in disposing of the trapped moisture. Flicking it on to a carpet, tablecloth or your trousers will not be welcomed.
Nording Pipe cross section
Erik Nording’s “Keystone” pipe is a combination of clever engineering and
absorbent lava bowl pellets.
The bottom portion below the briar bowl is a cup, an extension of the shank.
The briar bowl is supported above this trap, and is secured by a synthetic tight-fitting washer.
The base of the briar bowl has a hole in the middle, through which any moisture will drain down into the trap.
Lava pallets placed in the cup/trap will mop up the collected moisture.
No soggy dottle is left in the bowl at the end of the smoke and the pellets can be used more than once before being discarded.
A very clever, robust, inexpensive working pipe. Spare bowls are available.

Customer comment:
Today I bought the Nording Keystone pipe and what a delight. Yes it is not a collector’s pipe and not a terrible beauty but it is a very pleasant, cool and dry smoke. I dare to say that the smoke is, if not on par then just a little dryer than that of my Keyser and Peterson, and all this for a wonderful price. This really was a good surprise to a purchase on the whim. (Thank you WS)

Pipes with a sump – offer extra collection facility:

Cross section of a  'Dry' pipe showing 'sump'In amongst all the normal/conventional “filter” pipes there are others which have taken the control of the moisture further by combining some of the options.
Savinelli Dry System and Marca Dry:
The built-in angled sump in the shank on the outside of the bowl in both pipes collects moisture in the same way as a built-in trap.
There is a gap between the smoke hole coming out the bowl and the end of the mouthpiece, which is fitted in above the sump.
A fitted disposable 6mm “filter” can absorb of most of the moisture before it drifts down into the sump, preventing any overflow – hence the name Dry pipes.
Savinelli Dry System pipes use 6mm balsa filters.
Marca Dry can use 6mm balsa, or the 6mm cartridges with meerschaum or charcoal granules.
Any pipe with sufficient upward bend could have a sump drilled into the thicker wood, but this is a skilful operation not carried out by many manufacturers.

You’d like to experience a dry smoke?
For our next pipe “special” we offer the Savinelli Dry System pipes, the Marca Dry pipes and the Nording Keystone pipes:

From 20 October to 2 November 2016 you can buy
Savinelli Dry System, Marca Dry, Nording Keystone
At 25% off the normal retail price
Normal prices from R675.00 to R1755.00

Take advantage and smoke “Dry”.

Colin Wesley

No.391 October 13 – 26, 2016

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No.392 October 27 to November 9, 2016


The cigar as a whole is what creates for you an enjoyable smoke.
The different filler leaves, (long or short filler) carefully combined to create a blend with a particular flavour, the quality and elasticity of the binder, and the smoothness and flavour of the wrapper, all contribute to the final experience.
However, all other flavours being equal, the wrapper is reputed to provide 60% (30% to 90%) of the end flavour of the cigar.

What qualities do the cigar blenders and manufacturers require of the wrapper?
What must the growers produce, and how?

A wrapper can be various shades of brown, or even green, but it should have fine veins, few, if any, blemishes (such as rain or sun spots) and be slightly oily.
It should be large enough for the size of the cigar it is to wrap, and supple enough so that it won’t break in the process.
It is the first thing that catches the eye, and should appeal to the senses of sight, smell and touch – just asking to be smoked.

Type of leaf
The lowest leaves on the plant are generally the largest and are protected from the sun by the upper leaves. They usually make the best wrapper leaves.
But growers can go a step further.
The whole growing area can be shaded (in sections) by a translucent cloth, formerly cotton now mostly synthetic. This protects the leaf from the direct rays of the sun, and increases the humidity and temperature around the plants. The most appreciated leaf of this type is Connecticut shade grown. Propagated from a specially developed hybrid seed it is naturally light brown, and exceptionally smooth, with a mild taste.
The same seed is grown in Ecuador (Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade), where the natural cloud cover, moisture conditions and volcanic soil offer near perfect conditions for growing wrapper leaf. This wrapper leaf is a little more robust than the original US Connecticut Shade, with correspondingly more flavour.

Even more robust is the Connecticut Broadleaf which is grown in the sun. As a result the leaf is less delicate, but more flavourful and slightly sweeter.
Then there is Cuban wrapper leaf which, as you know, is very rich, very spicy.

A different hybrid seed was developed from Cuban seed in Nicaragua: Habana 2000TM. This gives an even richer, more full-bodied wrapper leaf – pretty well on a par with the Cubano seed leaf from Cuba.
The same Habana (Habano) seed is very successfully grown in Ecuador; as is a Sumatran hybrid seed - slightly spicy, sometimes with a hint of cinnamon.
In fact, Ecuadorian wrappers have become some of the most wanted wrappers in the manufacture of (non-Cuban) cigars, using seed originally developed in many different countries.
So you get Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade, Ecuadorian Habano, etc.
The name of the seed is second, with the country where it is grown first – eg Dominican Sumatra.
In this way an extensive variety of wrappers is available to the innovative blender.
You get the picture?

But that is not the end of the story.
The processes of growing, picking, curing, need the growers’ full attention. Picking normally takes place during daylight hours from about 6 weeks after planting – and continues for 6-7 weeks.
Down on your knees - to harvest the leaves as they are ready, and make room for new growth.
It is a delicate process: a crease, a tear will substantially reduce the value of the leaf.

Curing is done in large, heated sheds – which are constantly checked for temperature and humidity.
Problems in this process can ruin the entire crop.
This is a game for serious tobacco farmers (vegueros in Cuba) – intensive care is needed to produce the wrapper leaf demanded by the top cigar manufacturers.

Maduro wrapper
The Maduro is a rich deep brown wrapper with intensified flavour, which results in a cigar that is often incredibly slow burning, mellow and mild.
Maduro is the Spanish word for “ripe” – a wrapper leaf that has been matured through extra fermentation by exposure to the sun or by curing for a longer period at higher temperatures (or both).
Not all leaves can be used to produce a Maduro wrapper – the leaf should be slightly heavier to withstand the fermentation process. Leaves from the higher parts of the plant are most suitable; the topmost leaves especially, since they develop the most natural oils to protect themselves from the sun.
In general, the higher the leaf the richer the final Maduro wrapper.

The wrapper will be carefully chosen by the manufacturer to complement and enhance the blend of the filler leaves, but in the final analysis it is the whole cigar that counts.

It is not necessary to be able to identify all the different wrappers; just by smoking a variety of cigars you will find out which you like best – given a particular time or occasion.
However you may like to experience the difference the wrapper can make to the same filler blend.
Fortunately Altadis have produced a group of cigars under the Casa de Garcia label, which have the same filler and binder, but different wrappers.
We have put together a 3-pack selection of these cigars in the corona size:
Altadis website: Casa de Garcia cigars are crafted in the Dominican Republic with an aged blend of Honduran and Dominican long filler tobaccos, a smooth Connecticut broadleaf binder – it is the wrappers that determine the end flavour.
Sumatra: With a Sumatra (Indonesia) wrapper
Subtle notes of spice, wood and nuts delivered through a well-rounded medium body.
Connecticut: With a light brown Connecticut shade wrapper
Light, smooth, creamy nuances accompany a mild body.
Maduro: With a dark Maduro Connecticut broadleaf wrapper.
Hearty, backed by notes of espresso and natural sweetness. Medium-bodied.

Buy two Wrapper Selections and discuss the differences with a friend.

On a different subject:
4 weeks ago we talked about our visit to the InterTabak Trade fair in Dortmund – and the “nice, new humidors” we found.
The shipment has just arrived, and for the next special we offer a leatherette covered desk humidor
Desk Humidor 10 cigars; covered with fine black leatherette for 10 cigars.
That’s about the number of cigars you need for immediate use, outside of your normal humidor.  Beautifully tooled, will look great on your desk, cedar lined and fitted with a bead humidifier.
Visualise it on the table in your smoking room, wherever that may be.

From 3 to 16 November, 2016, we offer
25% off Humidor 73-J0155, covered in fine black leatherette
Normal price R950.00

Back to the wrappers:
The Wrapper Selection could offer you the opportunity to test whether “beauty is only skin deep”, or does it really contribute to the overall beauty of your cigar.
If so, which wrapper do you prefer?
Email us.

Colin Wesley

No.392 October 27 to November 9, 2016

You can read previous articles from "Across the Counter" in The Library.


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No.393 November 10–23, 2016

Pipe Smoking – the start

Email received recently:
Good day,
I would like to buy a pipe and I’m completely new to the world of pipe smoking.
I have my eye on the Nording Eriksen Keystone Pipe; High-polished black briar bowl. Seems good for a beginner and very well priced. I would like to take advantage of the discount offer too.
Can I smoke the pipe without the volcanic pellets or is this mandatory? Just concerned that I may have to purchase those quite frequently and can become costly?
Also can you please recommend what other items I will need to add to my cart? I am assuming that I need a pipe cleaner? Filters?
Can you also recommend a good pipe tobacco, please? Open to some quality flavour suggestions.

Our reply:
Thank you for your email.
The Nording Erikson Keystone pipe is an excellent choice, easy to smoke and easy to keep clean.
The Volcanic pellets are not essential, except that without them you may need to do more frequent cleaning (washing out the base).
The pellets don’t have to be changed every time you smoke. Depending on your tobacco, you should get 2 to 3 smokes per bowl full of pellets.
Bought in the 100g pack the pellets are the most economical of all the absorbent “filters”.

Other than this all you need is a little patience to get into the rhythm of pipe smoking. The website article on Starting Pipesmoking - http://www.wesleys.co.za/archive31b.html#317 is an excellent practical guide.
Look for other articles on “starting to smoke a pipe” in our website Library.

Other items you will need.

Pipe tobacco – if you visit any of the Wesley’s shops, consider our Houseblends, and buy 25g of the one that smells most appealing to you. Numbers 1, 25, 43, 47 are the most popular. Later, or at the same time, select either of our “taster” packs to experience different types of tobacco.
They include a copy of The Perfect Blend – how to find the right tobacco for you.

But what if he had wanted a more conventional pipe?
A more conventional shape, with a filter system, in a similar price range to the Nording.
Do you?
If you are a beginner, you don’t want too large a bowl, and a bent pipe is much lighter on your teeth.
Not a “mini” though, the tobacco will be finished before you get to enjoy a relaxing smoke.
If you browse through the pipes on the Wesley’s website, you will find quite a few pipes from which to choose.
I’m thinking particularly now of the Marca Snug, and the Lorenzo Pavia value pipes.

Both ranges offer a “filter” system (6mm or 9mm); and they come with an adapter should you not want, or need, an absorbent “filter” – but would still like the benefit of the virtually unsnappable Teflon peg.

From these 2 ranges we have identified some really good shapes suitable for the newcomer to pipe smoking:

The Marca Snug offers 4 shapes, each available in three finishes (a choice of 12 pipes in all).  
Marca Snug  Satin sepia-brown finish Marca Snug Glossy black sandblast Marca Snug  Honey Blonde satin finish Marca Snug Glossy black sandblast
Shape MS22t Shape MS22s Shape MS21s Shape MS21t

Honey Blonde satin finish:
Satin sepia-brown finish:
Glossy black sandblast:
54-MarSnugNat R690.00
54-MarSnugBr R640.00
54-MarSnugSb R590.00

From the Lorenzo Pavia range we offer these 4 pipes:    
Spot-carved finish
54-LFilPSpot R330.00
Two Tone finish
54-LFilPTT R395.00
Rich brown “Walnut” finish
54-LFilPW R350.00
Unique carved finish
54-LFilPRust R295.00
Lorenzo PAVIA Range Lorenzo PAVIA Range Lorenzo PAVIA Range Lorenzo PAVIA Range
Shape LP108 Shape LP110 Shape LP107 Shape LP119

All very suitable, and all well-priced.
But wait (as they say) ……….

From 17 to 30 November 2016 you can choose from
the 12 Marca Snug, and/or the 4 Lorenzo Pavia
At 25% off the normal retail price
Normal prices from R295.00 to R690.00

Even if you are not a beginner pipe smoker, don’t miss out on this offer to add a practical, cosy pipe to your collection.
Makes sense doesn’t it!

Colin Wesley

No.393 November 10 – 23, 2016

You can read previous articles from "Across the Counter" in The Library.


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No.394 November 24, 2016

The year 1887

The year that changed the etiquette and style of smoking;
The year that transformed the basic, crude, ashcan into the elegant ashtray.
All for the purpose of collecting the ash from a lady’s cigarette.

For many years the groundswell of the lady cigarette smokers influenced the styles and elegance of the early ashtrays into almost an art form.
They became symbols of status, made from glass, fine porcelain and light metal work. These were found on almost every table, or flat surface in the homes of the well-to-do. Today they can still be found in antique shops and prestige Auction Houses. (For examples, google early 20th century ashtrays.)

In the man’s world ashtrays spread to Pubs, Hotels, Boardrooms and Clubs. These were often branded with names from worlds of both Tobacco and Liquor, to brighten them up, and quietly try to influence the minds of the patrons.
The functional designs of these ashtrays were all the same – shallow, round or rectangular receptacles of ash. They did the job – they collected the ash.

But as Pipe and Cigar smoking became more discerning their aficionados looked for, and expected, more from their ashtrays to enhance their enjoyment of tobacco.

So what were the criteria they were looking for:

The Cigar Ashtray
• The capacity to comfortably collect all the ash to be deposited. A smaller bowl for a single cigar, a larger bowl for when a group of friends get together.
• A proper support channel to hold the cigar horizontal, assisting in keeping the burn even. The cigar should not rest foot down -  this could cause an uneven burn.
• The support channel also provides the final resting place for the cigar to gently extinguish itself, with no after smell.
• An added bonus – some ashtrays incorporate a cover for the ash until the ashtray can be cleaned.

The Pipe Ashtray
•  Large enough to hold all the ash.
•  Wide enough to allow both hands to easily clean out the bowl of the pipe.
•  Fitted with a cork knocker to gently tap out the loose ash from the bowl. Over time this will avoid damage to the rim of the bowl. To prevent a broken peg, firmly hold the bowl (not the stem) while tapping out the ash.
•  A built in resting place to put the pipe, bowl down, open to the air, to cool down and dry out.

Now, with the holiday season fast approaching, why not put into the back of your mind to find some time to spend browsing through our Library.
Click Subject/Topic Index to find answers to FAQs such as in the list below -

  • What do you look for when “Assessing a cigar”?
  • Do you know “What can go wrong” with your cigar smoking – and how to prevent it?
  • Have you ever had a “Plugged cigar” – what did you do?

  • Are you inadvertently shortening the life of your pipe by not knowing enough about “Maintenance & Longevity”?
  • “Tongue Bite”- the bane of pipesmokers – what can be done?
  • What do “Brand Names” mean to the pipesmoker – what is “The Perfect Cure”?

You will find blogs back to the year 2000: some subjects repeated, usually with updates; many articles that were just one-off glimpses into either pipe- or cigar-smoking that you may have missed.
Pipe- or cigar-smoking - as with most subjects, the more you know, the more you can appreciate it.

With the right ashtray you can relax for a longer time without interrupting your research.

Maybe you don’t have the right ashtray?
You’ve come at the right time - we’re offering a special price on two pipe ashtrays and two cigar ashtrays:

Pipe Ashtrays Cigar Ashtrays
Sturdy glass ashtrays Savinelli Sidecar Ashtrays Swivel closing ashtrays Polished Nickel
Sturdy glass ashtrays
Sturdy glass ashtrays Savinelli Sidecar Ashtrays Swivel closing ashtrays Sturdy Nickel "Spoon" Cigar Ashtray

From 1 December 2016 to 11 January 2017
you can choose from these pipe and cigar ashtrays
At 25% off the normal retail prices

If you have been “making do” with an inadequate ashtray, just print this article and leave it lying around – the “gifting season” is not far off – you may be lucky.

Or buy one for yourself and earn some brownie point for tidiness!

Colin Wesley

No.394 November 24, 2016  

You can read previous articles from "Across the Counter" in The Library.